Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably heard by now that Microsoft has placed a $44.6 billion bid to buy Yahoo!.
We’ll leave it to others to ponder the Wall St. implications of the move, but in her All about Microsoft blog, Mary Jo Foley posits “a Yahoo! purchase would irrevocably change the kind of company Microsoft is.” Foley focuses on advertising in her comments, but it could represent a change in Microsoft’s application development focus. Microsoft built itself around operating systems and desktop applications, the things you do with a computer. Of course, with the advent of the Internet, what you do with a computer has changed radically. Yahoo! and Google have made hay in offering up Web-based applications, leveraging search capabilities and creating dynamic user portals.
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Microsoft has tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to gain a dominant position in those arenas. While Dana Gardner speculates a Microsoft-Google partnership might be a mess, it could represent a return to Microsoft’s core applications business. Yahoo! and Silverlight (for RIA and composite apps) represent where the next wave of applications are headed. On the enterprise side, easily distributed Web apps and multimedia mashups are where a lot of companies want to go. It’s where the innovation is and for Microsoft, a company which has always fancied itself an innovator, that’s a good place to be. There are those who think enterprise mashups will be the killer app once users get a service-oriented architecture in place, the idea being that a loosely coupled infrastructure will lead to dynamic new applications.
It’s no secret Microsoft has long faced criticism in SOA circles because its remedy for users grappling with a heterogeneous application environment has been to pursue homogeneity on the .NET platform. Microsoft’s Oslo model-driven development initiative is still in the planning stages, but a Yahoo! purchase begs the question “Why bother with application infrastructure?” Obviously no one expects Microsoft to pull its irons completely out of that fire, but if that’s not going to be a big growth area for the good folks in Redmond (and IBM and Oracle/BEA are gobbling up large chunks of that pie) then maybe it makes more sense to concentrate on New Wave application development. Microsoft could make leveraging service orientation its app dev enterprise play rather than implementing service orientation.
Let someone else do the tedious work and be the company that does the cool stuff.
There’s so many facets to this offer that it’s impossible to assess the true implications of a Microsoft/Yahoo! merger, but going after Yahoo! does indicate where Redmond’s heart is. If Microsoft really wanted to pursue application infrastructure, BEA Systems was a completely complimentary acquisition target. It would have given Microsoft unparalled reach across the .NET and Java platforms. Yet it didn’t make that play. Instead it’s made a Web play which could build on top of of what the application infrastructure vendors provide, potentially expanding its enterprise app dev audience well beyond the .NET platform.